Mighty God, you speak words of promise and I answer with praise. I am yours, all yours.
Read REVELATION 16:1-11
The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath
16 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”
2 The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
3 The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.
4 The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 5 Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:
“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
you who are and who were;
6 for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”
7 And I heard the altar respond:
“Yes, Lord God Almighty,
true and just are your judgments.”
8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.
10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.’1
In this chapter, we are further plunged into some of the most challenging images of judgment in the Bible. This is not a prediction of future vindictive acts by an angry deity; we have seen earlier in the book that John appears to be describing the world he is living in, not a future apocalyptic age. There is no reason to think these are literal: they are not literally possible, and we have been happy to recognize the symbolic meaning of the other images in the book.
We also need to recognize that the language here closely matches two other descriptions of God’s judgment in the Bible. The first is the ten plagues that come on the nation of Egypt,2 which God sends in response to Pharoah’s refusal to ‘Let my people go’.3 We thus find mention of blood, hail, boils, darkness, and frogs, all from the Exodus account, and it is this close correspondence which makes this sequence different from the seals and the trumpets. The other parallel is with the teaching of Jesus. The language of gnawing their tongues and cursing in verses 10 and 11 comes very close to Jesus’ repeated mention in Matthew’s gospel of ‘outer darkness’, where there is ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’.4
Central to this sequence is the interlude in verses 5–7; it is almost as if the agents involved anticipate our objections and pause the action to offer a commentary. The central principle of God’s judgments is that they are ‘true and just ’ (v 7); God is giving to people what they have given to others (the principle of lex talionis) and is following the consequences of what they have chosen. If we interpret God’s judgments in any other way, we have missed the point.
Do I struggle with the idea of God acting with this kind of justice? Why (not)? To whom in the world today will this teaching be important?
Lord, please purify my heart and mind, so that I will live more faithfully and walk more closely with you.
Last Updated on May 16, 2023 by kingstar